News: AAAS News & Notes
27 June 2008
Edited by Edward W. Lempinen
Science & Human Rights
Summit Promotes Wireless Technology as Human Rights Tool
Amir Dossal, Agnès Callamard
For citizens of the developed world, wireless communications are a way to log on to the Internet from a favorite coffee shop, schedule a meeting via Blackberry, or check sports scores on a cell phone. But for the developing world, experts said at a recent AAAS forum, wireless technology offers
a chance to address more weighty concerns, such as the promotion of free expression and democracy.
More than just a luxury, access to digital technology is an important tool for helping those in the developing world to "live better, learn better," said Amir Dossal, executive director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships.
Dossal was among 175 experts from 20 nations who gathered at the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks, hosted by AAAS from 28 to 30 May. As the community activists, academic specialists, and technology innovators discussed the challenges of building a wireless world, a theme emerged: The universal human right to free expression can be enhanced and protected through broader use of wireless technology both in the United States and abroad.
Dossal noted that access to cell phones is becoming widespread and has been a factor in helping to locate people in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in China. Wireless technology also has helped refugees connect and find lost family members in other areas of crisis. But Dossal said there is much more to be done.
"At the United Nations, we've realized that if we are to make any difference to the people of the developing world, we must take a quantum leap," he said. One leap, he said, is to broaden the use of wireless technology as a means to provide unfettered communication in societies. Dossal cited efforts by groups such as the U.N. Global Alliance for Information and Communications Technology and Development and the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child initiative.
Providing wireless access can be a formidable task in states where repressive regimes restrict access to technology and distrust open communication, Dossal said. But Agnès Callamard, executive director of Article XIX, a London-based international human rights organization specializing in freedom of expression, said there are clear international obligations for states to respect the rights of their citizens to communicate freely via any medium.
Callamard said her group has been working on issues surrounding the allocation of the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes the frequencies for wireless communication. "We are quite worried about the very strong free-market approach" to allocation in many countries, she said, noting that the approach may limit access to a spectrum that she says should be viewed as a public good.
AAAS's Science and Human Rights Program (SHRP) has undertaken a Wireless Communication Technologies and Human Rights Project to promote the reach and impact of human rights groups working in poor, remote, or high-risk regions where access to the Internet by conventional means is too costly, too difficult, or too dangerous. "We want to support efforts to generate new and innovative ideas for connecting people to the Internet, as well as enhance the work of human rights organizations through wireless technologies," said Josh Robbins, the SHRP project manager who heads the initiative.
Jonathan Adelstein, a member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, said community wireless networks can spur economic development as well as provide digital inclusion. The free flow of information is the lifeblood of open societies, Adelstein said. "Availability of broadband really furthers human rights," he added. "This could become one of the greatest tools the world has ever seen in promoting democracy."
The summit was cosponsored by SHRP, the New America Foundation, the CUWiN Foundation, and the Acorn Active Media Foundation.
AAAS Trains Leaders in Local Science Education
After 3 years of intensive evening classes, weekend meetings, and never giving up a day job in the classroom, 48 Washington, D.C., teachers graduated this spring from a AAAS cosponsored program that provided new depth to their knowledge of science and math and prepared them to be educational leaders at their middle schools.
"I'm amazed by how much you can learn after you think you've already learned something," said Ronald Tate, a D.C. teacher at Lemon G. Hine Junior High School. Last month, Tate and his colleagues received master's degrees from the College of Professional Studies at George Washington University for their participation in the program.
"You're ready to go forward and accomplish something that is truly remarkable," Shirley Malcom, head of Education and Human Resources at AAAS, told the graduates, their families, and other supporters during a 17 May ceremony at AAAS. "With this, there truly is no child left behind."
The programs, DC ACTS (DC Advancing Competencies in Technology and Science) and DC FAME (DC Fellows for the Advancement of Mathematics Education) are filling a critical need, said Ali Eskandarian, senior associate dean at George Washington University's College of Professional Studies. "Science and math education at the K—12 level is deficient nationwide, but the situation is particularly dire in D.C."
For DC ACTS graduate Gloria Allen, the program offered a way to obtain a solid science knowledge base. "Science is constantly changing and updating itself," said Allen, who teaches 5th-grade science at Plummer Elementary School in southeast D.C. "As science teachers, we need to be as timely as possible."
Today's science teachers, trained as generalists, have to rely on textbooks that aren't always accurate to get their science background, according to Allen. With the training provided by DC ACTS, Allen and her peers are better able to evaluate the material they see in books, she said.
DC ACTS focused on a different science subject—physical science, earth science, and life science—each year of the program.
Middle-school science teachers are held accountable for teaching each of those subjects, yet many teachers don't have a formal education background in some of the topics.
By strengthening their understanding of the material, "they can move more easily between subjects that they're required to teach each year," said Joan Abdallah, AAAS director of DC ACTS.
With greater skills and confidence provided by the program, teachers are better equipped to review curricula, provide leadership throughout their school districts, and discuss the best ways to increase student achievement.
Like DC ACTS, the mathematics program DC FAME aims to deepen the knowledge of middle-school math teachers. But the DC FAME program was—and is—more about developing leadership skills in teachers. "It's a genuine leadership program," said Florence Fasanelli, director of DC FAME with AAAS Education and Human Resources. "And you can't be a leader unless you understand what you're teaching," she said.
The program required teachers to do extensive writing in term papers and personal journals, chronicling their attitudes about mathematics. In his final paper, DC FAME Fellow Sam Reheard described how learning a topic deeply leads to new discoveries. "There are limits to what my mind can discover and process in a day," wrote Reheard, a mathematics teacher for special education classes at the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) in D.C. "Reflection is an essential part of the learning process."
Before DC FAME, Reheard had taken formal math courses but had no classes on how to be a math teacher. "I felt something was missing," he said, voicing a common reason that participants enrolled in the program. "The more I know, the more confident I am."
A new cohort of DC FAME Fellows, funded by the State Education Agency for D.C. Public Schools, will begin a 3-year program on 30 June. DC ACTS, supported by the U.S. Department of Education, is pursuing new funds to welcome a second cohort in fall 2008.
Science & Schools
Illinois Teacher Wins AAAS Education Prize
School crafts carried home to proud parents might have been a distant memory to students at Deerfield High School—until they stepped into Diane Riendeau's classes. Now, the students are schooling their parents in the physics of stadium horns, marshmallow guns, and homemade hovercraft as part of the innovative teaching that made Riendeau the 2008 winner of AAAS's Leadership in Science Education Prize for High School Teachers.
Riendeau's "Make It, Take It, Teach It" program at the Deerfield, Illinois, school gives students a chance to observe basic physics concepts as they build a simple object like a kaleidoscope and use their creation to teach their parents about reflection, for example. The combination of hands-on learning and teaching by the students—along with positive feedback from their families—has raised physics comprehension and interest, according to data collected on the program.
Deerfield science department head Judi Luepke said the number of physics survey classes at the high school has doubled since Riendeau began teaching them, "as it has a reputation for being a fun and engaging class with reasonable expectations."
The annual prize of $1000, supported by AAAS member Dr. Edith Neimark, recognizes a high school teacher who has contributed significantly to the AAAS goal of advancing science education by developing an innovative and demonstrably effective classroom strategy, activity, or program. In this second year of the competition, the prize also includes a visit to the Shanghai International Forum on Science Literacy of Precollege Students.
"This year we are very pleased that Diane's accomplishments will also be recognized by educators abroad," said Jo Ellen Roseman, director of Project 2061, AAAS's science literacy initiative. "Improving science education is truly a global concern, and the generous invitation from our colleagues in Shanghai is testimony to that."
Riendeau devised her program with an eye to giving "the more creative students a way to excel in a science class" while luring others in with the science's practical side. Projects like the marshmallow guns—which teach students about velocity—can end up as elaborately decorated and "named" creations, she said.
"They also try to adjust the design a bit once they see my gun. I have the longest barrel because I want them to learn that the long barrel will produce a faster marshmallow. It's my secret weapon when we have our battle," Riendeau joked.
Last year, Deerfield launched an ambitious new program to bring more physics classes to freshmen, ensuring that all students will leave the high school with some physics experience. For Riendeau, a 20-year teaching veteran and active member of the American Association of Physics Teachers, it's a welcome change. "Years ago, physics was a course for the cream of the crop," she said. "Only the best of the best got to it. That was a tragedy."
For more information on the AAAS Leadership in Science Education Prize for High School Teachers, see www.aaas.org/go/scied_prize.
Screeners Needed for AAAS Science Journalism Awards
Scientist volunteers are needed to review entries in the prestigious AAAS Science Journalism Awards program. Scientists residing in the Washington, D.C., area, or who will be in the area in mid-August to mid-September, are invited to help screen print, online, radio, and television reports for scientific accuracy. If interested, please contact Molly McElroy (202-326-6434; email@example.com) in the AAAS Office of Public Programs.
Winners of the awards, which are sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C., will be honored at a ceremony in February 2009 at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago. Members of the screening committees will be recognized in the awards booklet distributed during the ceremony.
New Dues Rates Approved for 2009
The AAAS Board of Directors has approved a dues increase for 2009. The Board authorizes increases to cover two kinds of expenses: unavoidable costs associated with running AAAS and publishing Science, and new expenses that add value to membership. Postage and paper increases and improving online resources are examples of the kinds of expenses the Board anticipated in setting the 2009 rates.
The new rates are effective for membership terms beginning after 31 December 2008. As listed below, they do not include postage or taxes for international members, which is additional.
|•||Regular professional members||$146|
|•||Postdocs and K—12 teachers||$99|
|•||Emeritus members who receive print Science||$115|
|•||Institutional rate for print for high schools and public libraries||$360|
|•||All other institutions receiving print||$835|
For further information, including subscription rates for Science Online, librarians should contact AAAS or their subscription agents, or go to the Science Online Web site.
All members will be advised of the new dues rates on their renewal notices for 2009. Member dues and voluntary contributions form the critical financial base for a wide range of AAAS activities. For more information, contact the AAAS Membership Office at 202-326-6417, or www.aaas.org/membership/.